tv [untitled] March 1, 2012 11:00am-11:30am EST
historically have lived together peacefully between communities and, therefore, there is no problem. there is a problem. there is a problem, and they need to address it. i think the younger people do understand that fear in the demonstrations every friday, where they have the big one, the really big one, there frequently are banners. this is watching it on youtube that say -- [ speaking in foreign language ] arabic meaning the syrian people are one. and what they are trying to express there is, no sectarian divisions. don't let the assad regime play one community off against the other. which is very much what the regime ultimately is trying to do. there are signs all over damascus that the government put up saying, beware of sectarian strife. well, the opposition is saying, the people are unified against you. it's the government that's even raising the issue in the first place.
>> thank you, ambassador ford. i richard your optimism on the subject. i hope you're right. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator cardin? >> thank you, mr. chairman. first, ambassador ford, thank you very much for your heroic service. we watched what you were doing in syria and i know the international community was a o also, and it was a bright momenmoment , i think, for the united states leadership. so we thank you very much for that. secretary feltman i think we all agree that there will be a tipping point that assad regime will not survive. the challenge, though, is that until that happens, the humanitarian disasters will only get worse. so how many people are going to lose their lives or their lives will be changed forever until that tipping point is reached is a matter of grave interest to all of us. you point out that there is a growing unity in the region, in the arab world, which would, i think, point out that our
options may be stronger than we think. we may have more opportunities to try to save lives. i'm very mindful of senator lugar's cautionary notes, and we all share that, but i guess my point is, what can we do, what account united states do in leadership to minimize the sufferings that are taking place and will take place until the assad regime is removed? what can we do working with our international partners to provide the best opportunity for the safety of the civilian population in syria during this creative time? >> senator, thank you. this is a question we're talking about all the time. it's, what can we do, either ourselves as americans, and -- but more importantly what can we do together? with our partners in the region and beyond. and what we can do together
question, i think is the more important one. particularly because, frankly, our influence in syria is much less than the influence of some of our neighbors. our economic ties with syria before all this started were extremely limited compared to the economic ties between syria and europe, syria and turkey, syria and the arab world. and there is an international consensus that came out of tunis we all need to be doing more on the humanitarian side. working with partners who have history of working in conflict areas that can get things into vulnerable populations inside syria. work wig the neighbors hosting people who have fled syria. there's a consensus. an international consensus in the region from the world. that's an important short-term goal, is getting things in. making sure warehouses are stocked, supplies are pre-positioned. there's an international consensus for increasing pressure on assad through a variety of means. talked a lot about the sanctions
already. but there -- there's always look at more sanctions that can be done, particularly from those countries, as i said that have had stronger economic tie in order to deprive the regime of its income. there is a consensus we all need to be working with the syrian opposition in all of its forms and in tunis a recognition that the syrian national council is a legitimate representative of the voices of the syrian opposition, and we're working with that. but i think that your question actually hints at something even beyond that. and i think for more aggressive action we would need to have a larger international consensus than currently exists. one thing that we are definitely working on going back to senator menendez' question what role is the security council play? it's high time, past time for the security council to be playing a role, and that, too,
was a consensus that came out of tunis, is that people in countries and institutions represented there want to see an end to the blocking of russia and china to the security council taking action. >> you're right. i was trying to probe as to what more we could do. i agree with you. you need international unity. security council is where we normally start that. it's nots the exclusive area. it's not the determinative area, but it's certainly one in which would give us a stronger footing having the arab league is clearly important. so i would hope that we would work together exploring options to be more aggressive where we can effectively in unity with the international community. you mentioned another point i found very prefti very interest the population of sovereignty at a low point.
i expect hamas recognized that when it pulls out da damascus, presenting a challenge for us. we are clearly very concerned about their influence in that region. it looks like they're taking further steps to become more popular among the arab population and countries. can either one of you give us an update on hamas and its movement and what we, how we are going to counter some of their issues in its relationship not just with syria but also with iran and other countries in that region? >> i mean, i think it says something when you have a terrorist organization that has been coddled for years, decades, by the assad regime pulling out saying they can't stand what the assad regime is doing. exactly right. it gets to the popularity question. if you look at zogby polls,
long, incredible history doing polls in the arab world. a couple years ago there was a question posed to arabs, who is the most popular arab leader outside of your own country's leader? since everyone would have to say, my own leaders, at least a couple of years ago they would have said that, and bashar assad was the most popular leader outside whatever the whole country is. look at the same polls today, same questions, same places, he's at the bottom of the list. you know, that's not lost on even terrorist organizations. like hamas. but this doesn't change our opinions on hamas. our demands on hamas are the demands on hamas, you know, hamas, to be accepted as a responsible player needs to accept renunsiation of violence and adherence to all agreements signed by the plo and israel.
it's interesting that in telling that even hamas can't stomach what bashar is doing to this people, but it doesn't change our calculation. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator rubio? >> thank you. thank you both for being here today, and ambassador ford, thank you. i know everyone's telling you that, but thank you for your service. it's one thing to sit here and talk about these things. it's another to be there and be the target of some of, some pretty vicious stuff. so thank you for your service to our country and for this cause. a quick question before i get to the bigger one. this is for you secretary feltman, i don't expect you to know the answer you might. the bloomberg report, the head of the venezuelan oil company said it isn't pointed from shipping oil to syria based on surnt t or not? >> it is technically correct, they're not prohibited from shipping oil to syria. it's still morally wrong to provide diesel that can be used in military machines that
slaughter incident syrians. so it's morally wrong but not legally wrong. but it's not -- but it also isn't the same as what syria had before november, which is the ability to export its own oil, earn its own revenues, to put in the pockets of bashar to do with as he wants. >> it's a conversation for another day. one of the things we can talk about, how to introduce third-party support and this brought it to lie. i want to focus on the u.s. international interests happening here. i want to posit a story, a view of it, see what you both think about it. we look at something in a country, a transit point for terrorists. syria the hub of that. in addition a state sponsor of terrorism itself and a key ally of our biggest problem in the reichen not just for us but for iraq and iran. now the people want to get riftd guy that run this place. a lot of internal divisions. we talked about the complexities
of all that. but in the midst of all this seems to me as much as anything else, clearly this is salve regime change, about a change of direction for the country, but from our strategic point of view it's also a composition for future influence. in essence who will influence the direction syria goes in the future? as long as al qaeda and others see this chaos and say, we can go in and take advantage of this chaos to our advantage create a better place to operate in. nations like ours see it potentially to go in and embrace the syrian people to embrace what they think is the widespread sentiment. rule of law, functioning democracy, a country that wants excite, not haven for terrorism. normal people living in a normal country with normal and everyday aspirations. as much as anything else our involvement is about what influence our view of the world, which we think is better for the syrian people, could ultimately play in that country. my guess, having only been on the committee a year, having
traveled to libya in the aftermath of what happened to libya. there's big differences between libya and syria as the secretary pointed out a couple days ago, but one of the things i was struck by driving through the streets of libya, pro-american graffiti on the balms people walking up to us in the street who weren't staged to thank us for the role america played even though some wanted to even do more in that regard, and my point is i think it's going to be really hard five years from now, not impossible. anything's possible. i'm not an expert on the culture, but i think it's going to be really hard for an islamist to go to one of these young guys thanking us, thought america was on their side and convince them to join some sort of american jihad in a couple years. on the other hand, they're really angry at the chinese, at some of the countries that turned their back at them. that's happening here, too, i hope. people of syria clearly know the american people, that this senate, that the people of the united states are on the side of their at perations. we can't decide who wins, who's in charge, how they balance internal con dplicts but we want
them to pursue their peaceful aspirations and have a country that prospers. i think in the national interests of the united states, it's critical that future generations and syrians in the future know america son our side we want no part of these strange movements having us join anti-american sentiment and hope one day that means they'll be not so anti-israeli. maybe pro, although that's wishful thinking. that's our national interest here and i took longer to explain it but wondered if you'd agree, criticize or share your thoughts in that regard? >> make a couple comments and let robert talk about inside syria. first of all i can't believe any of these countries, anyone is looking to trade one kind of tyranny for another type. we don't know how the transitionless turn out but it's pretty clear the quest for dignity means people will guard against going from one tyrant to another type of tyranny. we've also seen that while al qaeda has tried to exploit
unrest across the region, that al qaeda ideology does not have any appeal for the sorts of young people and protesters across the region that are looking for dignity and opportunity. in terms of the syrian people i will defer to my colleague ambassador ford but give one example, similar to your experience in libya, he would be too modest to raise. when ambassador ford want to hama, encircled, the people tossed flowers on to his limousine. we got back to damascus and the regime stamp staged an attack against other embassy. the people of syria no exactly where robert ford stood in terms of their rights and aspirations and robert ford represented us ably showing that's where the american people stood. >> just, senator, i think it's very telling that in the
demonstrations every week in syria they burn russian flags. they burn chinese flags. they burn hezbollah flags. that tells you what they think. frankly, from our strategic interests, that's a good thing, i think, in a sense that we want syria in the future to not be the malignant actor that it has been supporting terrorism groups, and being the cause of a great deal of regional instability. and so i think there's huge potential, strategic gain for us as a country with the changes going on in syria, but that's not why the syrians are doing it. that's not why the street protest is doing that. they're doing it because they want dignity. and i think it is very important for us as we go forward to keep in mind that the most important thing we can do is keep
stressing over and over our support for universal human rights being respected in syria like other countries. freedom of speech. freedom to march peacefully. the right to form political parties and to have life under a rule of law, a dignified life. that's what i tried very hard constantly to underline during my time there. just those basic values. the syrians can work out their politics and as senator ritsch said, it's going to be hard, really hard, but if we stay on the track of respect for their human rights, we will ultimately be on the side that wins here. >> thanks very much. i'm next in line, and i'll try not to use all of my time, but assistant secretary feltman, thanks for being here today and for your ongoing public service. ambassador ford, you've heard it
before, but it bears repeating. we're grateful for your service in so many assignments, but especially under the horrific circumstances you've had to face and we're grateful you're with us today. i guess some of us not being on the ground like you were, have difficulty in -- in imagining or even articulating the scale and the gravity of this violence. it's just hard to even comprehend, even though we see the television images all the time i can't even imagine what it's like, and a number of us have been frankly impatient with what washington has done or not done, and i'll say both the senate and in other institutions.
so we're impatient. we're also frustrated. this hearing today is one way to advance the -- advance the development of a -- of a boefd wo body of work that can undergird another resolution. we just had a resolution frankly i thought was very weak. it wasn't nearly enough. so i'm glad we're having this hearing to advance the ball. i wrote down two words here when working with damian and chloe on our staff about the formulation of questions, and two words that i think make sense for what we're trying to do. at least what i hope we can do. one is solidarity and one is commitment. that we need to figure out a way to not just express outrage and not just talk about solidarity, but figure out ways to, in fact,
bring about a policy or a strategy that will demonstrate that will prove in a sense our solidarity with the syrian people. that's one priority. the other is commitment to a number of things. a number of priorities, but commitment especially to humanitarian and medical assistance. if we're going to say as i think it is the consensus position, that this should not be a military engagement on our part, if we say that, we better get the other parts right. and the other parts are humanitarian and medical assistance. so my first question is for mr. feltman. i know the friends of syria, a meeting took place and that was very positive and i know we have a commitment of $10 million to the refugees and the idps, but i
want to get a better sense of what was agreed to at tunis. speci specifically as it relates to humanitarian assistance and what the united states can do to address this horror. so if you could just walk through what's definite in terms of an agreement and what will actually lead to action. >> senator casey, thanks. in tunis, the discussion on humanitarian issues fell into two categories. first, how do we help those countries around syria that are hosting seyrians who have fled her country. easy topic. families have been generous. it's a question of helping hosts. there aren't large-scale, for the most part, large-scale refugee camps. for the most part they've gone to stay with friends and family outside of syria and it's
getting help to those and a straightforward proposition. migration is working those areas. the second question is much harder they came up in tunis and internally inside the united states government which is access inside syria. how do you reach the vulnerable populations inside syria? that's a much, much harder issue, and right now the problem of humanitarian deliveries in syria is not supplies. it's not related to money. the international community has sufficient resources, sufficient commitments. it's a question of access. just yesterday you had valerie amos, the u.n. under secretary, humanitarian coordinator hooshs had been waiting in beirut for days for a visa to go into syria. she finally left. it was clear syria was not going to give her a visa. nobel killing, butchering his
people, also trying to prevent the community to respond. that doesn't mean we aren't responding. unfortunately in today's world there are a lot of conflict situations around the world, a lot of partners we've worked with conflict situations already so you can work with groups. wfp, others, a.i.d.s, office of foreign disaster assistance has a history of being able to work inside conflict areas through trusted partners to make sure our assistance is going to where it's directed but it's not easy. the big question is access and it goes back to senator menendez' question about the russians. this is one area the russians expressed a lot of concern as well as the humanitarian situation and we would like to see that russian concern that's stated on humanitarian to be translated into the type of pressure on the assad regime that helps ease these questions of access. >> thank you. ambassador ford?
>> i liked your two words, start that. solidarity and commitment, and i think especially right now when people in cities like homs and zabadani are under siege and others, i think holding this hearing is terrific and i think the concerns expressed by bodies like the united states senate are especially important. i would never want syrians to think that because we closed the american embassy we're no longer interested in their efforts there to create a new syria that treats people with dignity. and with respect to the commitment that jeff was talking about, i would just underline that we do need to get access so that we have supply position, we just need to get access into the country and if the russians would indeed translate their
expressed policy into actions in terms of pressure on the syrian government, we would hope that they would do that now. >> thank you very much. my time is up. i'll submit to others for the record. senator corker. >> thank you, mr. chairman and to the other chairman hoon was here first. i am glad we are having this hearing and i hope we'll have multiple hearing on iran. it feels to me we're moving into a position where military conflict is going to be weighed and i can't imagine why we're not having a hearing on iran both classified and unclassified every single week, but i sure hope in your temporary capacity we can urge that. i would think all of us would benefit from it, but we thank both of you for your testimony and for your service to our country, and we had a classified briefing yesterday that could not have been more different than the one we're having today. it's really kind of fascinating, and, you know, when we talk about the opposition groups, this part i don't think is
classified. i mean, you ask, okay what are these guys fighting for? the word democracy never comes up. i mean, basically, you've got an alawite minority with dominion, if you will, over a sunni population mostly. and fighting for is dominion over the minority population. we heard in words whatsoever about anything other than this being a conflict between one group of people that has been oppressed by another group of people and their desire to change that equation, and so when i hear these flowery statements, i do hope especially ambassador ford, since you've been there if you could educate us a little bit, because this is a night and day presentation from what we had through our intelligence community yesterday. >> senator, i'm -- the
opposition is divided. it is no question about that, an it is fractious, and there are competing visions within the syrian opposition. there is an islamist element, for example, as contrasted to a secular element. and that's why i spoke before about the need for the opposition to unify around division and the need for the opposition to unify around a transition plan. the transition plan would, in fact, be the way to attract people that have been sitting on the fence so far to join the larger, the protest movement itself. i don't know what you heard in the briefing yesterday, but let me just say from direct firsthand experience, i have talked to people who organized the demonstrations, and i have had team members from my embassy talk to them repeatedly. we got a very clear message from
them that people who organize this, senator, that they have a vision of a state that abides by rule of law and is not targeting the alawis. however -- however -- it is a complex society, and the longer the violence goes on and the government is driving this violence -- perhaps intentionally with this in mind -- the greater the risk that the sectarian con flaflictt we have seen in homs but really not to such a degree in other cities. homs is the worst, that it would spread and metastasize into other cities in syria, but let me give you some very concrete examples. there are drus communities in southern syria. the drus community is now more and more saying that they should
stop supporting assad's regime and begin to support the protest movement. there have been calls by leaders in a city called salato, south of damascus, for jews to stop serving in the syrian military and to join the protest movement. there have been calls within the alawi community, including alawi religious figures, to stop supporting bash ar al assad and his regime. the express used in their communique last autumn it will be the ruin of us if we -- >> i appreciate the background and history, but i think what you're saying is, there is no central vision? there are lots of differing visions, and we have diplomatic relations if i remember correctly, with syria. is that correct? >> yes, we do. >> and i think you went over there to work with this government to put reforms in place. i mean, and, by the way, i --
there was a controversial over you being there. i very much supported you going and doing that. i thought that was an intelligent thing for us to do but we have diplomatic relation, working on reforms and they obviously had done really, really terrible things and are brutal ap obviously not the kind of government we want to see pervasive around the world, but the fact is that -- that this is not exactly a democracy movement in syria right now. i mean, there are some people who are espousing that, but that's not -- talking about the people organizing. but the people fighting, from what i understand, are fighting for, you know, power and government. they aren't fighting under the manner of democracy as was laid out by mr. feltman, at least by our intelligence community, anyway. >> senator, i have to respectfully disagree. the public statements from
senior figures in the free syrian army speak about supporting a democratic state. we don't know yet what they would do were they in power. we only have their -- >> who would be in power, by the way? it's pretty interesting. who would be, if bashar was gone, who would be the person that was leading the country there? i mean, who is it we'd be -- we are supporting, if you will, morally at least? >> we are supporting a transition, which the syrian national council has laid out in connection with a road map set out by the arab league. in a sense they're linked. out of that would be a process by which a leadership would be chosen. i can't give you a name. i can define the process for you. but i can't give y n i think this is san important point, though, senator.